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href="http://foreignpolicy.com/2018/01/30/is-a-court-case-in-texas-the-first-prosecution-of-a-black-identity-extremist/">http://foreignpolicy.com/2018/01/30/is-a-court-case-in-texas-the-first-prosecution-of-a-black-identity-extremist/</a></font>
        <h1 id="reader-title">Is a Court Case in Texas the First
          Prosecution of a ‘Black Identity Extremist’? <br>
        </h1>
        January 30, 2018 - Martin De Bourmont</div>
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              <p>Christopher Daniels and his 15-year-old son awoke on
                Dec. 12, 2017, to heavily armed FBI agents outfitted in
                bulletproof vests and helmets pouring into the
                one-bedroom apartment they shared in Dallas, Texas. The
                pair were hurried outside, where they were separated
                while Daniels was arrested.</p>
              <p><span>Items seized during the raid on Daniels’s
                  apartment included two firearms — a Taurus Protector
                  Poly 38 Special and a Norinco AK-style assault rifle —
                  items the government says he is prohibited from
                  possessing due to a misdemeanor conviction in 2007 for
                  domestic assault in Tennessee. Also seized was a book,
                </span><a
href="https://www.amazon.com/Negroes-Guns-Robert-F-Williams/dp/1614274118"><i><span>Negroes
                      With Guns</span></i></a><span>, by Robert F.
                  Williams, a civil rights leader and advocate of armed
                  resistance to racial oppression. </span></p>
              <p><span>Held outside in nothing but his underwear,
                  Daniels was unaware that the raid occurring in his
                  home was the product of more than two years of FBI
                  surveillance.</span></p>
              <p><span>Today, Daniels, known to many in his Dallas
                  community as Rakem Balogun, stands indicted for
                  unlawful possession of a firearm and has been in
                  federal custody since his December arrest. Friends and
                  family of Daniels believe the FBI targeted Daniels
                  because of his political beliefs and anti-law
                  enforcement rhetoric, rather than any legitimate
                  threat he poses. They point specifically to a new
                  government classification for domestic terror threats,
                  which the FBI calls “black identity extremists.”</span></p>
              <p><span>The terrorism </span><a
href="http://foreignpolicy.com/2017/10/06/the-fbi-has-identified-a-new-domestic-terrorist-threat-and-its-black-identity-extremists/"><span>classification</span></a><span>
                  is used to describe individuals who resort to violence
                  or unlawful activities “in response to perceived
                  racism and injustice in American society,” according
                  to a copy of the report obtained and published by <span
                    class="fp-red">Foreign Policy</span>.</span></p>
              <p><span>“</span><span>The </span><span>[black identity
                  extremist]</span><span> classification has grown from
                  a report on paper, to a national investigation of
                  Black Lives Matter and and black gun ownership
                  advocates,” wrote Daniels’s brother, Yafeuh Balogun,
                  in a statement on the arrest. “Rakem Balogun has been
                  classified as B.I.E, we must defend him.”</span></p>
              <p><span>“This is a continuation of COINTELPRO in a
                  modern-day form,” Balogun said in a telephone
                  interview with <span class="fp-red">FP</span>,
                  referring to J. Edgar Hoover’s counterintelligence
                  program, which targeted domestic political
                  organizations, particularly those in the civil rights
                  movement.</span></p>
              <p><span>The FBI declined to comment on any aspect of
                  Daniels’s case, including whether he was tracked as a
                  black identity extremist, but in interviews, civil
                  rights advocates expressed concerns about the
                  precedent of targeting African-Americans, like
                  Daniels, for their political activism, and using broad
                  categories anchored in race to potentially criminalize
                  speech and political activity.</span></p>
              <p><span><span class="pull-quote has-quote"
                    data-pullquote="For those involved in activism,
                    Daniels’s arrest poses the even more troubling
                    possibility that his case could be just the first of
                    many.">For those involved in activism, Daniels’s
                    arrest poses the even more troubling possibility
                    that his case could be just the first of many.</span></span></p>
              <blockquote class="pullquote-left">For those involved in
                activism, Daniels’s arrest poses the even more troubling
                possibility that his case could be just the first of
                many.</blockquote>
              Activist and attorney Kamau Franklin said people like
              Daniels are easy targets because of their nonmainstream
              politics. “This is obviously the first of what will be
              several attempts to begin to criminalize black organizing,
              militant black organizing in particular, and work their
              way down to other types of organizing,” he said.
              <blockquote class="pullquote-mobile">For those involved in
                activism, Daniels’s arrest poses the even more troubling
                possibility that his case could be just the first of
                many.<br>
              </blockquote>
              Daniels came to the attention of the FBI’s Dallas Division
              in March 2015, not for anything connected to weapons or
              crime, but because of InfoWars, a right-wing news website
              known for publishing conspiracy theories.<br>
              <p><span>Video showing Daniels’s appearance at a rally to
                  protest police brutality showed up on various outlets
                  including InfoWars, Aaron Keighley, an FBI special
                  agent, said at Daniels’s Dec. 15 detention hearing.
                  (Keighley did not mention what those other outlets
                  were.)</span></p>
              <p><span>The demonstration took place in Austin, in front
                  of the Texas State Capitol, and was meant
                  simultaneously as a pro-Second Amendment rights
                  demonstration and a rally against police brutality.
                  The demonstration brought together members of the Huey
                  P. Newton Gun Club and Guerilla Mainframe, a group
                  that promotes weapons training, fitness, and community
                  service.</span></p>
              <p><span>Daniels is a co-founder of Guerilla Mainframe and
                  a founding member of the Huey P. Newton Gun Club,
                  which promotes open carry, in which gun owners carry
                  firearms that are visible. Open carry is legal in
                  Texas.</span></p>
              <p><span>Footage of the demonstration shows openly armed
                  demonstrators chanting “oink oink bang bang” and “the
                  only good pig is a pig that’s dead.” </span></p>
              <p><span>The demonstration, </span><a
                  href="http://reason.com/archives/2015/04/30/gun-rights-civil-rights"><span>reported</span></a><span>
                  on by </span><i><span>Reason</span></i><span>
                  magazine, was described by the magazine as part of a
                  long, if misunderstood, tradition of armed resistance
                  in black communities against racial oppression. </span></p>
              <p><span>Keighley, the FBI special agent, said during the
                  detention hearing that Daniels’s Facebook profile
                  “openly and publicly advocates violence toward law
                  enforcement.” </span></p>
              <p><span>During Daniels’s detention hearing, Keighley also
                  referred to Facebook posts Daniels made on accounts
                  under the aliases Rakem Khafre Balogun and Rakem
                  Khafre, in which he showed admiration for Tremaine
                  Wilbourn, who is accused of killing a Memphis,
                  Tennessee, police officer, and Micah X Johnson, who
                  killed five police officers in Dallas in July 2016.</span></p>
              <p><span>In one post, Daniels shared a </span><i><span>Dallas
                    Morning News</span></i><span> article about how
                  Johnson’s actions were the result of America’s failure
                  to address racism, with the caption, “They deserve
                  what they got. LMAO!” </span></p>
              <p><span>Another post Daniels shared on the one-year
                  anniversary of the shooting bore the caption: “Today,
                  one year ago, one black man brought the Dallas Pig
                  Department to their knees. #77.” </span></p>
              <p><span>Interviews with individuals close to Daniels
                  suggest that the FBI was following other black
                  activists he knew. Yafeuh Balogun, who has </span><a
href="https://www.nytimes.com/2016/07/09/us/black-gun-owners-police-shootings.html"><span>given
                    interviews</span></a><span> to numerous media
                  outlets over the years explaining the right to gun
                  ownership as a civil rights issue, told <span
                    class="fp-red">FP</span> that FBI agents visited two
                  of his workplaces over the past year. </span></p>
              <p><span>The FBI investigation of Daniels also appeared to
                  extend to Detroit.</span></p>
              <p><span>Louis, a friend of Daniels who asked that his
                  last name not be used, said that he purchased
                  Daniels’s plane ticket to visit Detroit in November.
                  Two days before Daniels was supposed to arrive, a
                  neighbor living next to a home address associated with
                  Louis reported that a man in a black car arrived in
                  the neighborhood with a picture of Daniels. Louis was
                  not there, so the man proceeded to ask the neighbor
                  questions about where Louis lived and where he was
                  employed. A few days later, the man returned, asking
                  the neighbor similar questions. </span></p>
              <p><span>Lauren Hagee, the FBI’s Dallas spokesperson,
                  declined to comment on Daniels’s investigation. Tim
                  Wiley, the FBI’s Detroit spokesperson, also declined
                  to comment.</span></p>
              <p><span>The FBI surveillance of activists connected to
                  Daniels even extended to South Carolina. On Sept. 26,
                  2016, Johnathan Thrower, who goes by Shakem Amen
                  Akhet, found out that two FBI agents, William L. White
                  — of the South Carolina Joint Terrorism Task Force —
                  and Clinton F. Pierce, had dropped by his mother’s
                  house and left business cards. Thrower, who knows both
                  Balogun and Daniels, said he contacted one the agents,
                  who told him that he wished to speak with him in order
                  to “close out” an investigation. </span></p>
              <p><span>Thrower agreed to meet with agents that day.
                  During their discussion, Thrower was asked to explain
                  a Facebook post supporting open carry and suggesting
                  that if open carry came to pass in South Carolina
                  (open carry of a handgun is <a
                    href="http://lawcenter.giffords.org/open-carrying-in-south-carolina/">illegal</a>
                  in South Carolina), local communities would organize
                  militias in order to protect themselves from police
                  violence. The agents also seemed interested in
                  ideological similarities between Daniels, Balogun, and
                  Thrower. </span></p>
              <p><span>Further questioning centered on what the agents
                  allegedly characterized as “anti-police” rhetoric
                  Thrower engaged in during </span><a
href="https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/charlotte-protests-over-keith-scott-shooting-descend-chaos-2nd-night-n652331"><span>protests</span></a><span>
                  in Charlotte, North Carolina, following the killing of
                  Keith Scott by a police officer; protests </span><a
href="https://news.vice.com/article/protests-follow-police-slaying-of-walter-scott-in-south-carolina"><span>surrounding</span></a><span>
                  the death of Walter Scott in South Carolina; any
                  connection he may have to the New Black Panther Party;
                  and </span><a
href="https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/a-secessionist-and-a-black-nationalist-join-forces-after-charlottesville_us_59968acfe4b0a2608a6b75a9"><span>discussions</span></a><span>
                  he engaged in with James Bessenger, chairman of the
                  South Carolina Secessionist Party. </span></p>
              <p><span>Contacted by <span class="fp-red">FP</span> to
                  verify the details of the meeting, agents White and
                  Pierce did not respond. Don Wood, an FBI public
                  affairs official at the Columbia field office, which
                  covers the entire state of South Carolina, declined to
                  comment. </span></p>
              <p><span>On Aug. 3, in the midst of of the ongoing
                  investigation into Daniels and his associates, the
                  FBI’s counterterrorism division issued an internal
                  report for law enforcement agencies warning about
                  “black identity extremists.” People affiliated with
                  this movement threatened law enforcement officers with
                  premeditated violence, motivated by a desire for
                  revenge over “alleged police abuse,” warned the
                  report, which was </span><span>obtained and <a
href="http://foreignpolicy.com/2017/10/06/the-fbi-has-identified-a-new-domestic-terrorist-threat-and-its-black-identity-extremists/">published</a>
                  by <span class="fp-red">FP</span></span><span> in
                  October.</span></p>
              <p><span>As politicians and the media </span><a
href="https://www.nbcnews.com/news/nbcblk/black-lawmakers-meet-fbi-director-over-black-identity-extremists-report-n824801"><span>debated</span></a><span>
                  the usefulness and fairness of the “black identity
                  extremist” classification, the FBI continued watching
                  Daniels. </span></p>
              <p><span>Law enforcement scrutiny of Daniels culminated
                  with a trip Daniels took to Detroit for what an FBI
                  affidavit describes as a “firearm-related training
                  event” scheduled for Nov. 18, 2017. In his affidavit,
                  Keighley describes learning that Daniels placed a
                  firearm in his checked luggage — in compliance with
                  airline regulations, according to the defense — which
                  was then delayed, before being returned to his home
                  address in Dallas. </span></p>
              <p><span>The FBI obtained a search warrant on Dec. 7,
                  based on Daniels’s prior conviction, and the raid took
                  place five days later. </span></p>
              <p><span>In an email to <span class="fp-red">FP</span>,
                  Daniels said his prior conviction was the result of a
                  dispute with a girlfriend at the time; he also denied
                  the charge. Daniels said that after a traumatizing
                  experience in a small-town jail, he allowed a public
                  defender to persuade him to plead guilty. </span></p>
              <p><span>Daniels told <span class="fp-red">FP</span> he
                  was unaware he was breaking federal law by having a
                  weapon, and never tried to conceal his pro-gun stance.
                  (In a motion to dismiss the indictment against Daniels
                  filed on Jan. 24, Daniels’s public defenders contested
                  the charge, arguing that “domestic assault” as
                  codified by Tennessee law does not categorically fit
                  the federal definition of domestic violence that would
                  prohibit him from owning a firearm.)</span></p>
              <p><span>During his detention hearing, Daniels’s
                  court-appointed lawyer at the time, Lara Wynn, asked
                  agent Keighley whether or not Daniels directed another
                  individual to cause harm to a law enforcement officer,
                  or if there was evidence Daniels specifically wanted
                  to harm a law enforcement officer. Keighely’s response
                  to both questions was no.</span></p>
              <p><span>The judge, however, found that Daniels threatened
                  community safety and ordered that he remain in federal
                  custody.</span></p>
              <p class="photo-caption" id="caption_934891"> Residents
                and activists march in the streets amid heavy police and
                North Carolina National Guard presence as they protest
                the death of Keith Lamont Scott Sept. 23, 2016 in
                Charlotte, North Carolina. Scott, 43, was shot and
                killed by police officers at an apartment complex near
                UNC Charlotte. (Brian Blanco/Getty Images) </p>
              <p>Whether or not Daniels is guilty of violating the law
                for owning a weapon, his case is cause for concern among
                civil rights advocates who monitor the FBI’s use of
                domestic terrorism designations for potentially
                constitutionally protected activities. As far back as
                2012, the American Civil Liberties Union <a
href="https://www.aclu.org/blog/national-security/manufacturing-black-separatist-threat-and-other-dubious-claims-bias-newly"><span>noted </span></a>its
                concerns about bias in FBI reports on “black
                separatists” and training materials that juxtaposed
                controversial speech and beliefs by present-day
                African-American groups with decades-old acts of
                violence by the Black Panthers.</p>
              <p><span>Lee Rowland, a senior staff attorney with the
                  ACLU’s Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project, said
                  that speech, even unpopular speech, is protected so
                  long as it does not cross the line of creating an
                  immediate risk of harm against a particular person or
                  group of people. “Broadly giving governments the power
                  to create a second class of people who receive more
                  surveillance, more scrutiny, who have no leeway to
                  make a single mistake in life, should trouble us,” she
                  said.</span></p>
              <p><span>John Raphling, a senior researcher on criminal
                  justice for Human Rights Watch’s U.S. program, agreed
                  with those concerns, saying that Daniels’s political
                  positions were protected under the First Amendment.
                  “It is a concern that anyone who puts themselves out
                  with a unpopular viewpoint is going to be subject to
                  surveillance, and we don’t know how many other people
                  are subject to that surveillance,” Raphling said.
                  “This guy happened to get caught having a gun he
                  wasn’t supposed to.” </span></p>
              <p><span>Daniels’s case also illustrates the large amount
                  of discretion FBI agents have in determining who poses
                  a threat, according to Mike German, a retired FBI
                  agent and fellow at the Brennan Center for Justice’s
                  Liberty and National Security Program.</span></p>
              <p><span>In 2008, the FBI introduced a new class of
                  investigations</span><span> called “<a
                    href="https://www.justice.gov/archive/opa/docs/guidelines.pdf">assessments</a>,”</span><span>
                  which do not require a “factual predicate” to
                  commence; it is up to the FBI agent to affirm to him
                  or herself that his or her mission is pure. By
                  classifying people, such as black activists, as part
                  of a violent group, the FBI can tell itself that it’s
                  not profiling them because they’re black or engaging
                  in constitutionally protected speech. </span></p>
              <p><span>“That’s where this black identity assessment is
                  important,” German said. “It provides the additional
                  element necessary.” </span></p>
              <p><span>Not everyone is convinced, however, that the FBI
                  is singling out black Americans. JJ MacNab, a domestic
                  terrorism expert, said that rhetoric of the sort
                  employed by Daniels and appearing in public or on
                  social media with guns would get anyone investigated,
                  regardless of their race or affiliation. MacNab added
                  that she was aware of FBI investigations into the
                  predominantly white American militia movement, saying
                  that she did not believe there was a disproportionate
                  focus on black groups. </span></p>
              <p><span>But even MacNab said there was a disconnect in
                  Daniels’s case. “If someone is that much of a threat,
                  why do you take two years to arrest?” she asked. “And
                  then once you arrest them, they’re so much of a threat
                  that they can’t possibly be let out … either arrest
                  them sooner or let them out pending trial.”</span></p>
              <p><span>Cases like these also demonstrate the dangers of
                  implicit bias in law enforcement and run the risk of
                  criminalizing legal speech, said Paul Butler, a former
                  prosecutor and Georgetown University law professor.
                  Even if the FBI admitted that they began investigating
                  Daniels because they disapproved of his ideology, they
                  would not have violated any federal law. </span></p>
              <p><span>“When law enforcement agents have a large amount
                  of discretion, black men will bear the cost of that,”
                  he said. </span></p>
              <p><span><span class="pull-quote has-quote"
                    data-pullquote="For the activists who worked with
                    Daniels, the potentially stifling effects of his
                    arrest can already be seen.">For the activists who
                    worked with Daniels, the potentially stifling
                    effects of his arrest can already be seen.</span></span></p>
              <blockquote class="pullquote-left">For the activists who
                worked with Daniels, the potentially stifling effects of
                his arrest can already be seen.</blockquote>
              In a Jan. 16 email, John Nicholson, Daniels’s
              court-appointed attorney, warned Gina Smith, an attorney
              who briefly acted as a go-between for allies of Daniels
              and Nicholson, about his concern over supporters who held
              a demonstration outside a federal courthouse.
              <blockquote class="pullquote-mobile">For the activists who
                worked with Daniels, the potentially stifling effects of
                his arrest can already be seen.</blockquote>
              <p><span>Nicholson told Smith such demonstrations — some
                  demonstrators wore masks and engaged in legal open
                  carry — would harm efforts to have Daniels’s detention
                  order revoked. “The District Court will have to
                  presume that, if released, Christopher will go right
                  back to associating with these folks,” he wrote. </span></p>
              <p><span>In response to queries from <span class="fp-red">FP</span>,
                  Nicholson declined to comment on any aspect of the
                  case.</span></p>
              <p><span>On Jan. 24, Nicholson filed another motion
                  appealing the magistrate judge’s detention order. </span></p>
              <p><span>In the motion, Nicholson writes that Daniels’s
                  constitutionally protected speech, which he refers to
                  as the case’s “elephant in the room,” does not provide
                  any basis for his pretrial detention. The government
                  filed an objection to this motion, citing Daniels’s
                  social media posts and rhetoric as examples of his
                  “state of mind.” </span></p>
              <p><span>While not the basis of a charge against him,
                  Daniels’s speech and social media postings demonstrate
                  his release would threaten community safety, the U.S.
                  Attorney’s Office argued.</span></p>
              <p><span>Daniels has now spent more than a month in
                  prison, initially at the federal detention center in
                  Mansfield, Texas, before being transferred to the
                  federal correctional institution in Seagoville, Texas.
                  A trial has been set for Monday, March 26.</span></p>
              <p><span>If convicted, Daniels could </span><a
href="http://www.rip.uscourts.gov/rip/supervision/firearmpossession/FirearmPossessionProhibition.pdf"><span>face
                  </span></a><span>up to 10 years in prison. </span></p>
              <p><span>In an email to <span class="fp-red">FP</span>
                  from prison, Daniels said that while he cannot predict
                  the outcome of his case, he plans to stay away from
                  guns upon release. If he does get out, he said, his
                  plan is to return to school and continue spending time
                  with his children.</span></p>
              <p><span>Daniels, who said that he stopped protesting
                  police brutality in 2016 to focus his energy on work
                  and other types of community service, expressed
                  disbelief at his situation. “I never expected that
                  this would happen to me.”</span></p>
              <p><em>______________________________<br>
                </em></p>
              <p> Martin de Bourmont is an editorial fellow at Foreign
                Policy. He previously worked as a reporter for the Phnom
                Penh Post in Cambodia and as a reporting intern for the
                New York Times in Paris. </p>
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